Today was finally the day that I was planning to climb Bear Mountain! For cyclists who have never been there, it holds a similar sort of mystical allure as 9W does (until you go there).
I coordinated with one of my friends to ride up to Bear Mountain, with a nice 10am rolling start at 34th street Hudson Yards.
Before I dive into this post, I want to preface it with the fact that my SRAM Force FD arrived the other day and I went to have it installed (along with a new cable) at Ride Brooklyn on North 7th St. in BK last night. The shifting was smooth on the ride back, so I thought I had finally solved the continuous issues, but as we’ll later see in this post, I may have spoken too soon.
One thing to note – at the end of the Pulaski Bridge on the Brooklyn Side, some DOT members were giving out free bike lights! Very nice initiative on their part! The members were excited and very friendly.
Riding up to Bear Mountain:
Nevertheless, the start was pretty standard this morning, up the West Side Greenway, cut over on 158th street, Riverside Drive for a little, Fort Washington, 177th street, Cabrini Boulevard, and GWB Helix.
There wasn’t too much to comment on for the ride up to Nyack. We were moving well, going based on HR rather than speed. My goal for today’s ride was to keep my average HR under 140bpm, which I would later find out, I achieved!
Upon reaching Nyack, we made a left on Main street, a right on Franklin street, and arrived at the famous, Gypsy Donut. Now, this, very well-known Donut shop is pretty similar to the famous Voodoo Donuts in Portland. I’ve personally been to the one in Denver, which I thought was really great.
I had a Pumpkin Mousse Filled donut – in the spirit of Halloween! It was reminiscent of a Boston creme donut, but with nodes of pumpkin.
Haverstraw Riverside Trail:
After the donut stop, we made our way down the scenic, crushed gravel path around Hook Mountain up into Haverstraw. It was gorgeous out here, the majority of the path was covered in fallen yellow and orange leaves. Definitely was critical to keep center of gravity low here as there were definitely some unexpected roots and rocks that popped up every once in a while. Noticed that I lost traction for a split second a few times on some of the smaller hills since the leaves were decently slick.
Uncharted Territory (for me):
Afterwards, I was in uncharted territory. It’s always exciting to explore new areas, to get beyond the usual routes. Somewhere just above Stony Point, we stopped by Dee’s Deli. We saw a lot of cyclists outside who had just finished their trek from Bear Mountain. They all seemed to be in good spirits and told us that there were only 6 more miles left to the base of Bear.
So with some slight apprehension, a bit of excitement, we made our way up Route 202 / 9W. This part of the route felt very long. Something about venturing into the unknown makes travel seem longer than it is on the way back. We were greeted with some pretty decent hills – hills that made us feel as if we were already beginning out ascent to Bear. Sadly, upon checking the map, we were no where near the Seven Lakes Drive turn off.
SRAM Force FD:
Upon descending one of the final hills before Seven Lakes, I shifted into the big ring and bingo…. my chain dropped over the big ring. I thought to myself, “Oh F$#@, not this S%$^ again….” I literally had less than 24 hours with this new FD, how could it be screwed up already…?
Long story short, I found a workaround… I may be completely clueless here, but when shifting into the big ring, I didn’t have any issues if I’m in the largest / second largest cog in the back. Must be something about the chain line. It’s not optimal, but it beats having to stop every time to put my chain back on.
Bear Mountain -Seven Lakes Drive:
I was pleasantly surprised. It felt good. I was pretty comfortable. Yes, it was a bit tough after the previous 45 city / 9W miles, but I was moving! We were taking short breaks here and there. There were some great photo opportunities as well.
Reaching Perkins Memorial Drive…
That initial hill up Perkins slowly zapped me of energy and before I knew it, I was feeling very, very shaky. A classic sign of glycogen blowing up. Or, as it’s very well known as, “Hitting the Wall.”
Granted, I pretty much only ate carbs on the ride today, so I’m sure that didn’t help. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me nutrition wise on long rides. I sat down on the side of the road, eating some of my pistachios that I had in the back of my pocket.
I stabilized the shakiness and then I told my friend, “I can’t keep going. I hate to do this, but I can’t make it up the rest of the way.”
Couldn’t let the ego get to me. As much as I wanted to get to the top and take in the beauty of the nature. Something told me, that going an extra 1.5 miles uphill would have seriously been detrimental. This is a really important lesson that I think we all have to keep in the back of our mind. Knowing when to stop. It is VERY difficult, especially for me, as I’m very focused and driven.
However, I don’t feel like I “gave up.” Instead, I feel that I made a prudent decision and I feel really great about that. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to someone better than us, but we have to think about the thousands, millions of people that would look up to us and admire our achievements!
This below picture perfectly reflects my sentiment at the moment when I unclipped and sat down on the side of the road to lay down. Exhausted.
Unexpected Acts of Kindness:
So, the way down was pretty chilly! I barely pedaled and let the inverse grade % help me out. Making a left off of Seven Lakes drive, I was feeling very shaky once more and the small hills going up to the Bear Mountain Bridge were brutal for me. Eventually, I realized I needed to stop, otherwise I was going to lose my balance and get hit by a car. I started getting anxious because we were very far from any transportation, it was getting later in the day, and of course there was no cell service here, so we couldn’t call an Uber or some form of cab.
I did something that was highly uncharacteristic of me. I tried flagging down drivers. I knew there was absolutely no way that I would not be able to make it 10 miles to the nearest train station by bike through rolling hills. A few people stopped!
One person was kind of a jerk, another couple was very kind, but sadly didn’t have any room in their small coupe car. The couple even offered me a Kind bar. They had a bike rack on the back of their car, which had both of their bikes. Being avid cyclists, they understood what it felt like to “Hit the Wall.” After sincerely apologizing, they even offered to drive to an area where there was cell service to call a cab for us. Ultimately, they stayed with us until we were able to flag down another car.
We saw a pick up truck and figured why not try to flag it down. It turned out to be a couple and they were extremely friendly. They didn’t hesitate to help us out by loading our bikes (and strapping the bikes down to ensure security), offering water, some food, etc…
Ultimately, we all crammed into the cab of the pick up truck and I spent the better part of the ride trying to convince them to let me offer some money. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash, but I wanted to see if they had Chase Quick Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal, or anything else. Sadly, they weren’t connected on any of those services, I even ofered to mail them a check, but they refused. They were so kind and compassionate. We talked about cycling, the Hudson Valley, and such. Since there was a ton of traffic heading down to to Peekskill (which would have been a brutal hill to conquer at the end of the ride), they offered to drive us to the nearest Metro North station, Garrison.
It turned out to be in the direction of their house, so that worked out. I wanted to pay for their gas since I saw they were low on gas, but there were no gas stations to be found nearby. Things were pretty sprawled out up by Bear Mountain. When we finally arrived at the train station, we were essentially right across the river from West Point Military Academy.
We got tickets, waited for the train and I ended up seeing a very cute Pomeranian that actually looked strikingly like a black version of my puppy!
The train ride on the way back was pretty beautiful. I can imagine that commuters on the Hudson Line probably enjoy their scenic commute a lot more than some of the other Metro North lines.
Although I snacked on some small Kind bars, I was still hungry. I realized I was operating at a pretty significant caloric deficit, having burned over 2300 calories according to the Garmin’s HR monitor. The best plan of the entire day was to get Shake Shack from Grand Central. A burger, fries, and a milkshake never sounded so good, and would help me nullify some of the caloric deficit!
When I finally made it home, my puppy was so excited to see me!! There’s just something to be said about dogs, their love for their owners is truly unconditional and it feels great.
As I’m ready to wrap up for the evening, knowing that I’ll be sleeping like a rock tonight, I just wanted to express my sincerest gratitude to that couple with the pick up truck, the couple with the sedan, and my friend, who were all there for me today. In all the turmoil that’s going on in the world these days, it’s really heartwarming to encounter kind humans. I’m a big believer in, “what goes around, comes around.” So, I wish nothing but the best to all those individuals.
The big take away from this post is: today was NOT a failure. Even though I didn’t make it up to the top of Bear Mountain, the fact that I pushed myself and made it 2/3 of the way up is an achievement in and of itself. I’m sure one day I’ll be able to conquer Bear, but it’s stories like this that I think showcase the journey. The journey is more important than the destination in my opinion.